Points By Drew Pritt

Possible Successors for Barack Obama
June 11, 2008, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Should, and hopefully I say now, Barack Obama be elected President, there will be at least one vacancy in the U.S. Senate, and the quest is on to who may succeed him. Under state law and the federal Constitution, the governor would appoint a successor to the Senate should Obama become President. Though no names have formally surfaced from Blagojevich, sources said a key proviso would be the appointment of a successor who would gain Obama’s approval.

Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) however in the end would have the final say. Then-President-Elect John F. Kennedy (D) played hardball with then-Governor Foster Furcolo (D) in Massachusetts saying if Furcolo intended to go against the Kennedy-approved choice, Benjamin A. Smith II, then they would wait till Governor-Elect John Volpe (R) took over to lean on Volpe to select Smith. However, Obama cannot run out the clock on Blagojevich. The first question is WILL Blagojevich, who is the target of a Federal Investigation, get to make the appointment? If Lt. Governor Pat Quinn (D) succeeds to the office anytime between now and January, the more progressive Quinn could be a better deal maker with Obama than the more centrist Blagojevich.

But who will the appointment go to?



The first six potential candidates are top tier because of who they are by office or their relationship to Blagojevich. They are Governor Rod Blagojevich, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., U.S. Congressman Luis Guiterrez, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and State Comptroller Dan Hynes. The Governor could make a historic or legacy pick (Jackson), to reward a close loyalist (Guiterrez/Schakowsky/Hynes) or even to possibly eliminate a potential challenger (Quinn) if he makes a bid for a third term. Blagojevich even could appoint himself. After all he was a member for six years in Congress before running for Governor in 2002.

Blagojevich would escape, at least temporarily the air of scandal, that clouds his administration daily. He could return to the relatively safe bubble of Washington, D.C., where a Senate seat would offer an honourable exile of sorts at least till 2010. Also, he would be a key centrist voice in the Senate.

For Quinn, he is in the catbird seat. He has kept the heat on Blagojevich and retained his image of a reformer. If Blagojevich appoints him, he gains credibility and two years lead time for a Senate seat. Last time he ran for Senate was in 1996 against Dick Durbin and get got a decent 34% in the primary, though he was outspent 10-1. If Blagojevich appoints himself, Quinn gets his dream of being Governor finally. If neither happens, he is still set on the path to primary and potentially oust Blagojevich in 2010. (Editor’s Note – In 2002, I was his primary campaign manager for Lt. Governor. Do not underestimate Quinn. He’s a force to be reckoned with.)

Jackson would be the ultimate reward for a life of service. Jackson made two strong bids for President in 1984 & 1988 paving the way for a President Obama. His Operation P.U.S.H. group is synonomous and a needed endorsement group for any Illinois pol. Most of all in 2004, it has been speculated that behind the scenes, Jackson was instrumental in manuevering, with his son U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s help, former U.S. Senator Carol Mosley-Braun OUT of the Senate primary that Obama went onto win.

Guiterrez has enjoyed a long and close political relationship with Blagojevich. Also, as a Hispanic, it would be a key endorsement, as well as opening up a Chicago House seat for another Blagojevich ally.

Schakowsky also has enjoyed a long and close political relationship with Blagojevich and introduced him at his formal announcement ceremony for governor in August 2001. Schakowsky has said to the press, “I’m going to talk to some of my colleagues in Congress who were interested in a similar situation when [former Sen.] Jon Corzine became the [New Jersey] Governor and his seat became vacant, on how they proceeded.”

Hynes meanwhile is the hapless bridesmaid of Illinois politics. He ran second to Obama and is close to Mayor Daley. But Hynes believes his differences with Blagojevich on the state’s fiscal problems made him an unlikely choice for consideration. Also, he has run for statewide office twice and lost and is a lackluster campaigner who could easily lose a primary.



These are the more interesting choices that range from symbolic to removing a potential competitor to jumpstarting an up and comer, or rewarding a party stalwart who still has promise. Paul Vallas, who primaried Blagojevich in 2002, Blair Hull, who ran third to Obama but who gave over $2 million to Blagojevich’s race(s), State Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., who has been a close ally to Blagojevich, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, former Congressman and ’98 Governor nominee Glenn Poshard, U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush, former U.S. Senator Carol Mosley-Braun, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and former Mayoral candidate Sheila Simon, the daughter of Illinois political legend, the late-Senator Paul Simon.

Vallas is definitely looking at a 2010 primary challenge.  He is currently Superintendent of the Recovery School District of New Orleans, Louisiana. As CEO of Chicago’s School Systems, his work was cited by President Bill Clinton for raising test scores, improving relations with the teachers’ union, balancing the budget, and instituting several new programs included mandatory summer school, after school programs, and expanding alternative, charter, and magnet schools.

Hull is the founder and CEO of the Hull Group, an equity option market making firm that was sold to Goldman Sachs in 1999 for $531 million. He is currently chairman and chief executive officer of Matlock Capital a family office. Initially in 2004, Hull enjoyed a substantial lead and widespread name recognition resulting from a well-financed advertisement effort. He contributed over $28 million of his personal wealth for the campaign. When allegations that Hull had abused his ex-wife were made by the media, Hull’s poll numbers dropped and he failed to win the nomination.

Jones began his political career in 1973, when he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. He served in that capacity from 1973 to 1983. During that time he served as the Chairman of the Insurance Committee and was an Assistant Democratic Leader. In 1982 he was elected to the Illinois Senate. He is an ally of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Jones has teamed with fellow Chicago Democrat Blagojevich to propose plans for health care and education, paid for by $5 billion in increased business taxes and gambling.

In 2006, Giannoulias became the first Democratic State Treasurer of Illinois in 12 years. Prior to his election as State Treasurer, Giannoulias played professional basketball in Greece for a year before enrolling at Tulane University’s School of Law in New Orleans. After earning his law degree and passing the Illinois Bar exam, Giannoulias took a position as Vice President and Senior Loan Officer at Broadway Bank. Giannoulias serves on the board of directors of the Community Banker’s Association of Illinois Legislative Committee, the South Side/Wabash YMCA, and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce. Giannoulias also founded and chairs the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donates money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organizations.

Poshard was a U.S. Representative from Illinois’ 22nd Congressional District and was elected in 1988, where he served until 1992 when he was forced to run in the 19th district because of redistricting. Poshard, a Democrat, represented the 19th district in the United States House of Representatives from 1993 to 1998. As Congressman, he was considered to be a social conservative and fiscal populist; he was opposed to abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty largely on religious grounds, and opposed free trade agreements and encouraged fiscal responsibility.  Poshard lost the Governor’s race to Republican Secretary of State George Ryan in 1998 by a 49%-51% margin. In his concession speech, Poshard declared that “no purpose is served by anger or resentment. No good is served by dropping out of the system in the future. The time for disappointment is only for this evening. Tomorrow we go back to work.”

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, Congressman Rush worked to secure basic civil and human rights for African-Americans, women and other minorities. He was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1966 to 1968. Congressman Rush was a co-founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party in 1968.

While a Black Panther, he operated the Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children program. He also coordinated the Free Medical Clinic, which developed the nation’s first mass sickle cell anemia testing program. This visionary Panther initiative forced America’s health care providers to recognize the impact of sickle cell anemia on the Black community and to develop national research into its causes, effects and solutions, a practice which endures to this day. Prior to his election to Congress in 1992, Congressman Rush was an Alderman in the Chicago City Council. He represented the 2nd Ward on Chicago’s South Side for 8 years. As an Alderman, Rush helped pass significant environmental protection, gun control and neighborhood development legislation.

Braun was the first, and to date, the only, African American woman elected to the United States Senate, the first African-American senator to be elected as a Democrat, and the first female senator from Illinois. From 1999 until 2001, she was the United States Ambassador to New Zealand. She currently runs a private law firm, Moseley Braun LLC in Chicago. Moseley Braun has launched a line of organic food products called Ambassador Organics.

Daughter of powerful Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, Lisa Madigan  is the current and 41st Attorney General and the first woman to hold the post. Madigan was an Illinois Senator from 1998 through 2002. In 2002 whe decided to run for Attorney General, and narrowly defeated Joe Birkett in 2002 with 50.4% of the vote. In 2006 she was re-elected with 72.4% of the vote against Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart “Stu” Umholtz.

Sheila Simon has evidently chosen to stress the same plainness-and she has a lot of plainness to dramatize. Spectacles remind people of her father: there are such things as contact lenses-her neglect of them is no accident. Toothiness is a trademark of the Kennedys as, in lesser known degree, of the Simons, her father and mother. In 2007, she ran a close bu losing race for Mayor of Carbondale, Illinois.



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